“Why are you running? You can't get strong if you run, it will take away from your strength” Or better yet “You’ll lose all your gainz.” This was the prevailing belief with training for a few decades, or at least during my time as a young athlete. When someone could run for distance, speed, and still run over someone they were “genetic freaks”. Turns out the human body is capable of much more than just excelling in one area of athleticism.
If you’re going to some form of elite competition (Olympics, World Championships, CrossFit Games, or the Super Bowl) then yes I would stick to practicing your skill very specifically. But if you aren't going to one of these elite level competitions in the next year, you will greatly benefit from developing all of your energy systems, training your muscles through the entirety of the possible rep ranges, in all planes, with various modalities. This way you can ensure structural balance. You don't need someone with an algorithm to tell you where your lacking, you need to be honest.
So if you’re thinking I'm just a Crossfit loving kool-aid drinker I can assure you I am not. I am an Olympic weightlifter who struggles to breathe while walking up stairs. But there is no denying that there are crossfitters who haven't even made it to the Games that can crush their weightlifting competition. Weighing under 200 lbs, these crossfitters can qualify for nationals, win local comps and make people who have been training exclusively as a weightlifter for years look weak.
No one needs to get angry, as I am not calling anyone out, I am just stating facts. But the why and how behind this athletic development is something I have been thinking about for a while. What I have seen is that yes, of course the best crossfitters don't Crossfit WOD every day, but they still do a tremendous amount of work with very low intensities (percentages of their maximum) for a fairly substantial level of volume.
It would appear to me that this low percent, high volume work can yield significant benefits from developing tendon strength, improving movement patterns, inducing muscular hypertrophy, and increasing neurological connection. While I strongly feel anyone at the top of their sport should not change what they are doing near to competition (4 months out, maybe 6) the rest of the world or those not at the world stage can afford to make some changes.
Strength training elitists may say that the Olympic movements should not be done for high reps because that is not the purpose of the Olympic lifts. But has anyone tried it in a controlled situation before, with athletes who can handle the demands it causes? Well what about the argument that it's too dangerous with that level of muscular fatigue experienced. There is a potential for that but I have only seen technique breakdown with individuals who struggle to do a single rep in safe position.
Now to clarify, I do not think weightlifters should do Crossfit year round to be the best possible weightlifter they can. But I am starting to believe that there is a time and place where athletes can introduce high rep Olympic lifts in a fashion that will benefit their performance months or years later. Similar to the fashion in which great coaches program hypertrophy in the beginning of the off season for football players, powerlifters, weightlifters, track and field athletes, and the list goes on.
Maybe ‘Grace’ isn't the standard weightlifters use to do high volume low intensity training but maybe, if there are enough forward thinking coaches and athletes out there we can develop our own. Maybe something where we build up over the course of a month or two, and have weightlifters who can perform ‘Grace’ at a substantial pace.
As always I welcome thoughts and discussions so that we can further expand our knowledge of the area, and if in the end I'm wrong I will happily let everyone know. Although you cannot argue with the incredible results that the work has gotten Crossfit athletes already.